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Help migratory birds by dimming the lights

light pollution
2022 World Migratory Bird Day poster. Art by Omar Custodio Azabache

In 2022, the impact of light pollution is the focus of World Migratory Bird Day, an annual global campaign that celebrates the migration of birds across countries and continents. Throughout the year, organizers will spread the message to dim the lights for birds at night” and highlight the steps that individuals, communities, and governments can take to reduce the impact of light pollution on birds.

Traditionally observed on the second Saturdays of May and October, World Migratory Bird Day is in reality a year-long celebration that involves hundreds of organizations.

Eleven species have been selected to serve as ambassadors for this year’s theme. They include both short- and long-distance migrants ranging across the Americas. As a group, they represent the diversity of birds and the variety of ways in which birds are impacted by light pollution. The poster above, by artist Omar Custodio Azabache, shows the 11 species. Clockwise from top right, they are:

Black-crowned Night-Heron, Western Tanager, Swainson’s Thrush, Lesser Yellowlegs, Dark-billed Cuckoo (which breeds in temperate areas of South America), Baltimore Oriole, Burrowing Owl, Ruddy, Duck, Wilson’s Warbler, Markham’s Storm-Petrel (which occurs mostly off the Pacific coast of South America), and Magnolia Warbler.

To find World Migratory Bird Day events and activities, visit worldmigratorybirdday.org/events-map. If no events are slated in your area, you can start your own. Activities range from bird walks to painting competitions. Register at worldmigratory-birdday.org/register-your-event.

5 easy ways to help birds at night 

Reduce the amount of light outside your home or place of business. Turn off all non-essential nighttime lights. For essential lights, use timers or motion detectors to keep usage to a minimum. And always use the minimum wattage necessary for the task at hand. (This helps save energy and money too!)

Change the color of your lights from cool to warm. Studies suggest that green and blue light attracts more birds than red, orange, or yellow light. Use light bulbs that emit warm lighting to minimize disturbance to birds. (Light color is measured in kelvins—the lower the number, the warmer the light.)

Direct all lighting downward. Place lights to illuminate the floor or ground and use lighting shields to prevent shining into the sky.

Advocate for bird-friendly lighting in your town. Consider working with your local government to create a lighting ordinance in your community or to enforce or improve existing guidelines.

Become a community scientist. Measure your night sky brightness and submit your observations to the Globe at Night program at globeatnight.org.

2022 Artist: Omar Custodio Azabache

Central to World Migratory Bird Day is the artwork that reflects its annual conservation theme. Each year, artists from around the world submit their work to be carefully considered by a panel of reviewers, and one artist is selected. Omar Custodio Azabache was chosen to create the art for this year’s campaign. Omar holds a degree in Biology from Pedro Ruiz Gallo National University in Peru. He has experience in taxonomy and conservation biology with a strong emphasis on ornithology. Omar has been a research associate with the Center of Ornithology and Biodiversity (CORBIDI) since 2012. He also leads an urban bird ecology project called Aves Urbanas de Lima, which reconnects people with nature through birds, and is the co-founder of Playeras del Perú, which works to protect shorebirds and their habitats throughout the country. Omar has worked as a scientific illustrator for nearly a decade and has been featured in magazines, books, field guides, and other publications. See more of Omar’s art on his Instagram, @omarcustodioart.

Lights Out Programs in North America

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